The top spokeswoman for Vice President Mike Pence and the White House coronavirus task force tested positive Friday for COVID-19, setting off a scramble to test officials and journalists with whom she worked.
Katie Miller, 25, tested positive Friday morning after testing negative on Thursday. Earlier in the week, a personal valet to Trump tested positive in the first confirmed case of a staffer inside the White House contracting the deadly virus.
Miller’s diagnosis delayed Pence’s Air Force Two departure to Iowa on Friday morning as six staffers deplaned due to recent contact with her. Meanwhile, at least two reporters exposed to Miller were summoned to the White House for a free rapid coronavirus test.
Miller often sat near President Trump’s lectern during daily White House coronavirus task force briefings, which abruptly ended last week. She is married to top Trump adviser and speechwriter Stephen Miller. The couple generally leave the West Wing together in the evening.
Trump on Friday afternoon confirmed Katie Miller was infected. Her identity was not initially disclosed.
“She’s a wonderful young woman, Katie, she tested very good for a long period of time, then all of a sudden today she tested positive,” Trump told reporters.
“She hasn’t come into contact with me. She’s spent some time with the vice president,” Trump said.
“So she tested positive out of the blue. This is why the whole concept of tests aren’t necessarily great. The tests are perfect but something could happen between a test where it’s good and then something happens and all of a sudden. She was tested very recently and tested negative and then today I guess for some reason, she tested positive. Mike knows about it and Mike has done what he has to do.”
Trump added that “it could happen anywhere,” but that he’s not worried.
“I’m not worried, no, I’m not worried. Look, I get things done, I don’t worry about things,” Trump said. “I do what I have to do. We’ve taken very strong precautions at the White House and we’re dealing with an invisible situation.”
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters that although many administration officials go mask-free, “as you get closer to the president, some of those people that serve him will wear a mask in those closer proprieties.”
Miller was among the West Wing aides who worked without a mask. Unlike Capitol Hill, where masks became widely used last month, reporters and staff at the White House did not adopt masks en masse until Miller’s diagnosis, which prompted journalists on Friday to cover their noses and mouths for a televised briefing with White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
A senior administration official told reporters on Air Force Two, before Miller’s identity was revealed, that “the vice president and the president have not had contact with this person recently.”
“Out of abundance of caution, we went back and looked into all the person’s contacts most recently,” the official said. “That’s why we asked some of our staff to deplane. Nobody else was exhibiting any symptoms or having any feeling of sickness. We asked them to go get tested and to go home out of an abundance of caution.”
McEnany said at the press briefing Friday that measures are in effect to keep the virus from spreading among staff.
“We have put in place the guidelines that our experts have put forward to keep this building safe, which means contact tracing — all of the recommended guidelines we have for businesses that have essential workers we are now putting in place here in the White House,” she said. “So as America reopens safely, the White House is continuing to operate safely.”
Pence and Trump were retested for COVID-19 this week after the valet to Trump tested positive for the virus. The man, a member of the US Navy who is regularly in the West Wing and works as a personal assistant to Trump, began experiencing symptoms of the virus before testing positive on Wednesday.
A Pence aide previously tested positive for the virus in March as infections soared in the US. That aide had not been in close contact with the vice president, a spokesperson said.
Aides and journalists close to Pence and Trump are tested regularly for the virus using a rapid-results Abbott test that uses nasal swab samples.
After Trump’s valet tested positive, the White House said Trump and Pence will be tested every day.